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Let's Panic: The Book!

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How to Endure and Possibly Triumph Over the Adorable Tyrant
who Will Ruin Your Body, Destroy Your Life, Liquefy Your Brain,
and Finally Turn You
into a Worthwhile
Human Being.

Written by Alice Bradley and Eden Kennedy

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Sleep Is
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Chicago Review Press

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Let's Panic

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At LET'S PANIC ABOUT BABIES, Eden Kennedy and I share our hard-won wisdom and tell you exactly what to think and feel and do, whether you're about to have a baby or already did and don't know what to do with it. → 

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Speaking of bananas...

My son eats three foods. And this is making me insane.

Okay, maybe a little more than three. Here’s the list. Anyone who’s not a parent is signing off right abouuut… now, so without shame I can show the rest of you…

Everything My Son Will Ingest:

Milk and soy milk






American cheese

Macaroni and cheese

Ricotta cheese with pasta (but only certain shapes, and those rules change all the time)

Ravioli (sometimes, and you will never know when



Hummus (when he’s feeling generous)

All forms of pudding

Ice cream (duh), cookies (dar)

And that’s it! And don’t think I’m forgetting something. “Surely pizza!” you might say, but no, not pizza. “What about bagels? Every kid loves bagels!” Not my kid. Shut up.

I know this is a control thing. I know if I make a big deal, or any kind of deal, over this, it’s only going to get worse. I know many kids go through this. I know he’ll grow out of it, someday, maybe. But right now it makes me nuts at just about every meal. Okay, not breakfast. Breakfast is okay. And for lunch, I’ve just given up—I hand him his two containers of yogurt and I lie down on the ground until he calls for me. So really it’s just dinner.

Last year at Thanksgiving I broke down in tears because he wouldn’t consider a single food. Not a cranberry, not a single chunk of yam. Turkey? HAHAHAHAHA. At some point during his second year he fixated on macaroni and cheese as the Ideal Dinner, and this festive evening was no different. So my sister said, “Just give him macaroni and cheese every night. He’ll get sick of it.”


So here we are, over one year later. Every night, either Annie or Amy provides him with his dinner. (I have tried making it myself, but homemade macaroni and cheese was deemed the worst crime any mother could commit.) For a while he would enjoy peas or green beans with it, but no more will he even tolerate the sight of the green horrors. Such an atrocity cannot even remain on his plate.

And fruit! Oh, how he used to love fruit! Clementines and mango and bananas and apples and everything else! Kid liked fruit!

Even a few weeks ago, he would request apples and bananas. Request them! No more. These days, fruit is of the devil. Fruit will not be tolerated. Don’t even think about it, with the fruit. Except blueberries, which are currently $45 a pint. I’m not buying them. Or applesauce, and is that even really a fruit? When a fruit has been sauced, may we still call it fruit?

His pediatrician recommended that we cease commenting on his eating, but that we also make sure that we’re eating well in his presence. Somehow being around a variety of foods, even if he’s not ingesting them, will have an effect. But I do! I do that! She also stressed the importance of the family dinner, and we can’t seem to manage that because my husband for some reason can’t come home at a reasonable hour even when he leaves home early and that’s an entirely different topic that’s making me want to cry every day, but as for me, I eat so well! (At least as far as he knows).

He’ll watch me eating, he’ll cook with me, he’ll smell the food we’re cooking or I’m eating and he’ll exclaim over the wonderfulness of the smells, and like a fool I begin to hope. I let myself believe that maybe he’s interested, that maybe he wants to (I can barely write it) taste something.

And then my mouth starts to open and my brain is screaming SHUT UP SHUT UP DON’T EVEN SAY IT, but I do! Because I’m not smart! I say, “You want a taste?” and then it’s all over. I might as well have suggested that I whip out the kitchen shears and snip off his tongue. He clamps his mouth shut and presses both fists over his mouth and emits the worst sound ever made, a sound I can’t even describe except it makes me want to scoop out my eardrums with a grapefruit spoon rather than hear it for one moment longer.

Everything I read, everything I hear, is telling me to LEAVE HIM ALONE, but I have such a hard time LEAVING HIM ALONE. I don’t even worry that much about the nutritional challenges of his limited diet; we indulge often in smoothies that I pack with all manner of supplementary materials, and/or muffins that are crammed with vegetables and exotic grains. I know he’s getting what he needs. What kills me is that we can’t just eat the same damn dinner. That I can’t share with him food that I know he would like if he would even have a tiny bite. That going to a restaurant is a near impossibility. He won’t even eat the foods that are bad for him, that’s he’s supposed to like! Like French fries! Or grilled cheese! Or those nuggets composed of mashed chicken parts! Or ketchup THE KID WON’T EAT KETCHUP WHAT IS WRONG WITH HIM.

Tonight I failed, once again, to leave him alone. I dusted apple slices in cinnamon and sugar and ate them in front of him. He ignored me. I waved the sugary slices in front of his face and made yummy noises, but he continued to pointedly ignore me. Finally I said, “Apples with cinnamon! Mmm! Want a piece! Sure you do!” and he did the clamping-fists-indescribable sound. THEN he demanded “just plain cinnamon.” I refused him this. He immediately dissolved in tears. “Just plain cinnamon! Just plain cinnamon!” he repeated, approximately 57 times. Then I lost it. I explained, at a somewhat (aherm) elevated volume, that I was not going to simply hand him the cinnamon shaker, that if he was going to have a snack, which was by no means required, it was going to have some sort of nutritional aspect to it. Then he cried like I told him his teddy bear was going to Hell. Then he screamed repeatedly, anguished yawps of cinnamon deprivation. And I yelled, because I was trying to provide him with a model of how not to behave. He didn’t seem to get the message, because he yelled back.

Then! Because my mind was still not working right! I launched into a long and convoluted explanation of why he needs to eat nutritious foods, how such foods will make him big and strong. This didn’t work because he informed me that he doesn’t want to ever get big and/or strong. Then the rest of my brain died and I came up with the brilliant idea of a chart! We would make a chart, and every time Henry ate a new food we would put a star on the chart, and when the chart was full Henry would get a toy!

He liked this idea—focusing, as he was, on the word “toy.” We went to the refrigerator. “I’ll have a yogurt,” he said, “then we’ll get a toy.” I explained to him what “new” meant. There were more tears. I tried to take back the chart idea, but he couldn’t let it go. “We’ll have some milk,” he said, “And then, toy.” Once again I explained, no, ha ha, he already drinks milk. How about some black bean soup?

More tears. More attempting to take back the not-very-smart chart idea I had. I tried to get across to him that the chart would not result in instant gratification, that he would need to try 1,2,3,4,5! new foods. Then I said we should forget it and play and LOOK OVER THERE! IS THAT A SUPERHERO IN OUR CURTAINS?

He continued staring into the refrigerator. Finally he said, “I want to try black bean soup. I think it’s going to be,” he squinted, “a little good.”

I attempted to remain calm. I heated a few teaspoons of soup in the smallest bowl we own, and placed it before him. He took a tinier sip than I thought a human being could take, smiled, and said, “Okay, where’s my toy?”

P.S. Apparently this is International De-Lurking Week, and although I am not fond of the term "De-Lurking"--implying, as it does, that you are obligated to comment and if you don't you are creepy--I still like the idea of the Week and it's nice to hear from all of you. So! Say hello, why don't you?

Reader Comments (460)


Black bean soup sounds kind of yummy actually. Maybe I'll try it too.
January 11, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJen
Two words: franks and pizza. That's all we eat. A few more things, but I'm an organic macro-psycho and now I'm fat and have anxiety around my two year old's meals. Not only did I de-lurk, which I do now and again on your site, I added you to my links because you're one of four that I read faithfully every day.
January 11, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterkim
Hi! De-lurking to say hi. Only discovered you a few weeks ago and LOVE you writing. Can't wait to get my hands on that book you're writing (right?). You're in that category of addictive blogs which I read for the pure pleasure of the writing. So, thanks for the many hours (that have been and are yet to come) of reading enjoyment.
January 11, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterCristina
I AM a lurker AND I have no kids! Still love you, hysterical stuff and I love your kids name, so old fashioned! I have a one year old niece, does that count a little? We live in the same town and she's a very good this going to change? Will she go from "super easy-anything goes" to Miss. Picky? Hard to imagine.
January 11, 2006 | Unregistered Commentersarah

I have been reading your blog for almost a year, and I can so identify with the food thing. I just don't get it. My son is four, and apparently eats different things at school than he does at home. I will ask them for specific brands of things, like pasta, fix them for him, and triumphantly place the bowl on the table. He'll take one look at it, say, "nah", and ask for nuggets or macaroni and cheese.

He's only been eating foods that aren't dry for a few months now, so macaroni is a big accomplishment for us. He lives on chocolate milk, dry cereal, string cheese, and chicken nuggets. He doesn't ever seem to get hungry, and rarely asks for food.

As a baby, he drank up to 48 ounces of formula a day, and loved all baby food. Once we got to the chunky food, that was the end of his eating well. His doctor is not concerned, so I try to let it go, but there are many nights when I want to pry his mouth open and make him try what we are having for dinner. His response is, "nah, I'll try that when I get older". Then, he leaves the table to go and play.
January 11, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAlana Ansley
Last time I was sauced and hit on a girl, they called me a fruit. So the same could be said of applesauce.
January 11, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLisa V

I'm am lurker, and read here pretty regularly. I love the way you write about your son Henry. Too funny, and I always get a good laugh.

We have a quirky four year old, who eats pretty good, but if by chance any of his food is touching other food on the plate, forget it. He won't eat it, until someone wipes it clean. And forget anything red, he won't even touch it, including ketchup.
January 11, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLeigh
Hey! I'm a little jealous of Henry's list. Eva's list reads like an Atkins diet-meatballs, cheese, & eggs. Sometimes grapes. And anything made out of high fructose corn syrup.
January 11, 2006 | Unregistered Commentersam
Hi. I must must must stop reading your blog in class. This is bad. Stifled laughs are just as disruptive as loud guffaws.
January 11, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterkate
Your kid eats HUMMUS? What the...? You must be joking. I would trade my kid's addiction to fish sticks for your kid's love fore hummus any day.
January 11, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterEulallia
Childless but commenting just so you feel the love! The least I can do in light of all your fabulous posts. Thanks for your honest, hysterical entries.
January 11, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterDemery
First of all, I've read you for a long time now but comment only every so often, so I have officially "delurked" now.

Second, I am amazed that your son has HUMMUS on his list when he's very definite against a lot of things. I love hummus, but it has a sort of texture to it that most kids abhore!

My daughter's list is not much longer and it is starting to bug me. What do you want for lunch? Hotdog or PB&J? ARGH!

Finally, we have tried the star chart with my six year old. We have tried various incentives. The child does not care. This would explain why he is the last in his class to get his star chart filled. He's not ever in trouble, he just has no motivation. ARGH!
January 11, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterCrazy MomCat
I am not a creep so I shall de-lurk!. My mom did that chart thing with me when I was little. I earned a Barbie. But I don't remember what I had to do... I think it must have been pretty painful though, because I probably blocked it out.
January 11, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMaRy

Ah, this makes me just giddy with anticipation of having my own children. No, seriously.

I remember one of my younger brothers eating rice for six months straight. Only rice. Another of them wanted only eggs for the better part of a year.

They are both strong, healthy men now. One is a computer programmer and one is in the military and has a beautiful baby boy of his own.

It's all gonna be ok.
January 11, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterCheryl
You are making him REAL mac and cheese? That, in and of itself,is a crime. REAL M&C is not for small mammals. Make that kind out of a box. The microwave stuff is even better. The BoyChild thinks it is haute cuisine and it takes three minutes in the microwave. The REAL stuff I save for those of us who can actually appreciate it.
January 11, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterM&Co.
I read and I read and I read and I just don't know if I can do it. And it really does seem very satisfying and life changing and fulfilling and everything. And I'm really very patient compared to most of the world.

I'm delurking now to say hello and to tell you that I think you and all of the other blogs-by-parents I read are saints and Henry appears to me to be a great kid who will make up for these transgressions ten-fold just as soon as he's old enough to read these posts!

Have a good night.
January 11, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSarah
Delurking to say I love love love finslippy. Your blog and others give me great joy in my just moved to a big city to start a new job, don't know ANYBODY, and my husband doesn't move here for 3 more months life. Thanks!

January 11, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterchrista
I am with the "don't worry" crew. My friend Claudia's toddler went 11 months on bananas and peanut butter (really) and grew up just fine.

On the other hand, his list sounds exactly like my 43 year old boyfriend's. I quit cooking for him because it was Just Too Hard. Maybe I should send him to your house.
January 11, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSue
In the name of delurking, I declare my presence! Love your site so very much.

Perhaps a beer bong for Young Master, filled with a variety of foods for his liver-fattening pleasure? Or...not. I'm currently introducing rice cereal to my boy, whose expression ("and what fresh hell is THIS?") makes the forty-napkin cleanup almost worthwhile. Apparently I have so much to look forward to, food preference-wise.
January 11, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSundry
Just de-lurking, which, by the way, I thought was really interesting. I have rarely heard of the term, and have -never- heard of the de-lurking week.

Anyway. Definitely enjoy reading your blog.
January 11, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterCaitlin
Here I am, coming out of the woodwork to say hi and openly admire you. :)
January 11, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLCA
Lurk no more! I [heart] Finslippy.

I have a 13 year old girl who's always always been picky. Everything is 'that's gross'. Dinners are hellish. I also have a 13mo old son (can you say 'oops!')who - so far - eats. Anything. Knows where the Club crackers are in the cabinet, loves Annie's mac n' cheese, adores roasted butternut squash & leek soup (a lean-forward food!), will eat a banana anytime he sees it, etc. I fully expect this to end at some time in the near future. At which point I'll pick up the aforementioned books so I don't deal as wretchedly with the power struggle as I did with the 13 yr old.

And as for family dinners? HAHAHAHAHAHAHA I'm home by 5:30 by which time the Son is staaaaaarving, the Daughter has had her DAILY afterschool snack of Campbells Chicken Noodle Soup, and I am brain dead. The son gets fed, Husband gets home maybe by 7, and then I feebly & crankily try to make something that the Daughter will eat and the Husband won't think is too unhealthy.

I will personally fund the scientist who comes up with the one little pill that everyone takes every morning for sustenance doing away with the need for actual food.

Sorry... that was a bit long. Happy de-lurking week!
January 11, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLisa
Ok, I'll delurk. I have two sons, now ages 8 and 10. The 10 year old has/had some sort of weird gag reflex/can't chew food/barf if looked at cross-eyed disorder, so we learned to treat him like he was a bomb ready to detonate at any moment. His acceptable food list was WAY shorter than Henry's (please, could you rename him hen3ry? thanks).

ANYWAY, we just let things be, and now at 10 he is eating all sorts of things. Crab Rangoon! Shrimp! Steak! He's still not big on green veg, but his fruit consumption is respectable.

So if you can let Henry pick and be choosy on his own, our anecdotal evidence says he will become a normal human being in time. We also do two meals at evening here -- a kid meal at kid meal time (6-ish) and an adult meal at grown-up time (8-ish, after the small people go to sleep). It isn't ideal, but it suits us. We do eat together on the weekends.
January 11, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterCate
De-lurking after about a year to say Hi Alice! I read your writing regularly and very much enjoy it. I think this is the first time I've commented.

My kids were both super-picky eaters when they were Henry's age. One outgrew it. She's 13 now & eats everything. My younger daughter (9) is a medical miracle as she survives on cereal, yogurt and peanut butter almost exclusively. And Nutella. sigh.

Want some free advice? Pretend you don't care what Henry eats. Implore yourself. (Especially since he's already getting plenty of nutrition from the smoothies and muffins.) He is only going to eat what he decides to eat anyway, whether you get upset about it or not. Offer tastes of new foods via simple yes/no questions and be willing to accept 'no' gracefully, even if you have to fake it at first. Henry may never become an adventurous eater, but it's more likely with less argument & pressure. End of sermon.

Best of luck to you--Take care,Lisa

January 11, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLisa
Long time lurker, second time poster...why does the scenario always go so much better when we pre-play it in our heads???? I somehow always end up with much more "bonus material" than I bargained for with my kids.
January 11, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterstacey

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